In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, senior Pentagon official Colin Kahl told Congress that Islamic State in Afghanistan could have the capability to attack the United States in as little as six months, and has the intention to do so.
KAHL: "ISIS-K and al Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the U.S. But neither currently has the capability to do so. We could see ISIS-K generate that capability somewhere between 6 to 12 months. I think the current assessments by the intelligence community is that al Qaeda would take a year or two."
The remarks from Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, are the latest reminder that Afghanistan could still pose serious national security risks for the U.S. even after pulling all troops out of the country in August, ending its two-decade-old war in defeat.
The Taliban, which won the war, are enemies of Islamic State in Afghanistan, or ISIS-K, and have seen its attempts to impose law and order after the U.S. pullout thwarted by suicide bombings and other attacks claimed by the terrorist group.
Kahl said it was still unclear whether the Taliban has the ability to fight Islamic State effectively following the U.S. withdrawal, estimating that Islamic State had a "cadre of a few thousand" fighters.
Kahl also suggested al Qaeda in Afghanistan posed a more complex problem, given its ties to the Taliban - the same ties that led to the U.S. military intervention there in 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks that were carried out by al Qaeda.
President Joe Biden, whose supervision of the chaotic end to the war has damaged his approval ratings, has said the United States will continue to be vigilant against threats coming from Afghanistan by carrying out intelligence-gathering operations in the country.
Kahl said the goal was to disrupt Islamic State and al Qaeda so they don't become capable of striking the United States.